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Open water swimming: safety first

As open water swim season gets underway, it is important to recognize that while swimming outdoors is one of the joys of summer, it is very different than swimming in a pool. The most apparent difference is the lack of a controlled environment and conditions that vary minute to minute.

Because open water swimming is unpredictable, safety needs to be a primary concern.

The buddy system

Open water swimming is always better with a buddy. Even experienced and elite swimmers bring along a training partner whenever possible. However, even with a buddy, accidents happen. Staying close to the shore makes it easier to get help, if needed.

If you are going out for a long swim, and don’t have a swim partner, get someone to follow you with a kayak or paddleboard.

Know the course

Review your course beforehand, be aware of your surroundings, and understand the water conditions. Some areas, such as Lac Tremblant, have a designated swim course. If there is a marked course, follow it.

Check in with the lifeguard or the swim training center before you leave the shore. At Lac Tremblant, the regional IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant training center (CIRIM) can provide temperature data, swim buoys, maps of the swim course, and other information.

Use the right equipment

A wetsuit will keep you warm and will add buoyancy, which is helpful on long swims. A floating device is also a good idea, which allows you to rest if needed, as is wearing a brightly colored swim cap so you can be seen easier. Dark shaded swim goggles help block the sun, and for you, techno geeks, a GPS watch with swim features is always helpful.

Open water swimming offers a wonderful feeling of freedom – but accidents are less likely to happen if you make safety a priority.

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